by Dov Kornits

“Dennis is the protector of the civilian population, making sure that through this colossal military endeavour, the civilians are not forgotten,” actor Zac Garred says of his character in Occupation: Rainfall, the highly anticipated sequel to Occupation. “Dennis is about humanity and people, which naturally places him completely at odds with the alien invaders, even the defectors who have joined the humans on principle. However, his journey in Rainfall reveals to him that “humanity” is not endemic to humans, and humans can be completely devoid of it, making him question his perspectives and allegiances.”

This description could be easily applied to Zac himself, who has lived and worked in LA for the past 7 years, and is quite vocal on Twitter about US politics.

“I am infuriated by the conduct of some of our political and community leaders,” he says. “The outgoing presidential administration has been appalling, in many ways, and, unfortunately, there are people in LA who still trivialise and dismiss the horrific situation there at present. The selfishness of some people and their choice to be adversarial instead of cohesive has exacerbated things. They espouse their vacuous and idiotic conspiracy theories and show a horrendous disrespect to the doctors, nurses and scientists who are trying to save lives every day. It is bewildering that with 200 deaths a day in LA County people still do this!

“Crisis reveals character and I wish some of Australia’s conduct during this pandemic was found a bit more in the USA right now.”

Luckily, Zac is back in Australia for the premiere of Occupation: Rainfall, and he couldn’t be more excited.

It’s been two years since the first film in terms of the film’s timeline, tell us where we find your character and what he has gone through for the past 2 years?

In Occupation, we left Dennis at the start of The Battle of Sydney, in Rainfall he has been there with the resistance evacuating civilians and freeing prisoners, as well as gathering intelligence with Matt Simmons (Dan Ewing) and Marcus Chambers (Trystan Go). They are desperate to find a way to defeat the aliens, because things are not going well!

Dennis has also struck up a new relationship with fighter pilot Robin “Zorro” Sigiro (Dena Kaplan), because love still happens even in the alien apocalypse!

Any highlights from the shoot?

Being in Luke’s imagination is always a highlight, he is ambitious and industrious. Playing in these massive action set pieces and then seeing it come together as the effects are layered on is a thrill! And this film is bigger than Ben Hur so it is a real spectacle!

Working with the returning cast from Occupation, who I have become close with, reprising our characters and seeing where we go while building on what we had established was a delight. Plus, the actors who came on board for Rainfall, incredible, talented people who have added another dimension. Rainfall is a big undertaking, and we worked with the best people to bring it all to life.

Any particular inspirations for your character in the Occupation films?

Yeah! The character of Stephen (David O’Hara) in Braveheart and JD (Brad Pitt) in Thelma and Louise. Both cheeky, cocky and a little roguish. That is Dennis. Not afraid to be a little shonky to do the right thing but he has a virtuous heart. Dennis is also inspired by a real homeless bloke in my neighbourhood in LA! This gregarious, funny, warm bloke I always have a yarn to at the bus stop.

You get an Associate Producer credit on the film, what does that entail?

I had some financiers who came on board for the second block of shooting. I also assisted the production office during the shoot and was a creative soundboard for Luke. He would tell me his ideas and I would give him feedback where he asked for it. So, the role itself was financial, production and creative in application. I would shoot my scenes during the day and stay back for meetings with [producers] Carmel, Carly [Imrie] and Luke of an evening. It was an immersive experience that was challenging, but I am really grateful for the opportunity.

Did you grow up in Newcastle, and how did the acting bug bite? Do you still have a soft spot for Newcastle, it’s going through a bit of an artistic renaissance right now.

Oh yes! I am a born and bred Novocastrian and very proud of it! A passionate devotee to my Newcastle United Jets and Newcastle Knights, especially through the hard times ha! Every time I am back in Australia, I spend time in Newcastle seeing family and friends. I love it there.

And yes, I would go further and say that people are seeing now what Novocastrians have always known was there. Industrial towns forge incredible artists; Liverpool, Glasgow, Belfast, Seattle, Portland, Birmingham in Alabama. Mulloobinba/Newcastle is the same. Industrial towns create character and character inspires art. I was a little fella at the end of Newcastle’s industrial age, but I vividly remember going out on the tugs with Uncle Buzzer to bring the ships in to the harbour. My family were merchant mariners, carpenters, unionists, truck drivers. The blast furnaces are gone but the character permeates through the town and we see it in the emerging artists from Newcastle and the Hunter.

I was always in to films and filmmaking. My brother, my best mate and I would make stop motion films with clay figures and our Star Wars toys on Mum and Dad’s old Hi 8 camcorder, cinematic spectacles on the dining room table! I would watch BTS docos on any film I could find, even writing letters to the producers of Thomas The Tank Engine at Shepparton Studios asking how they made their shows. As for acting, it started with emulating comedy like Jim Carrey, Bugs Bunny, Fast Forward, Monty Python. But when I broke my foot at 14, and spent some time away from playing rugby league, I started drama training through the remote Trinity College of London program and eventually found my way to an agent in Sydney. I started having professional opportunities and I loved all of it. By 17, I landed my first lead on Channel Nine’s Foreign Exchange and the rest, as they say, is history.

You’ve just been in LA for a number of years – what’s the situation like over there in terms of the film biz and Covid?

I have been living and working in LA for seven years, I love it there and, without question, 2020 has been the most challenging and extraordinary year of my time, not just in LA but also America. As of now, our industry is on pause, LA is averaging about 14,000 cases and 200 deaths a day, hospitals are at capacity and there is so much virus in the community it is just not safe to work. So, productions are on hold until around February. I had a project I was due to shoot last July pushed to March 2021 because of COVID. Overall, the industry was extremely thorough implementing protocols to keep cast and crew safe. Testing is stringent and distancing measures robust. Most of our auditions are over Zoom, FaceTime and Blue Jeans, so I do everything in our lounge room or bedroom…. which is far less stressful than driving across LA! Since March 2020, we have been doing table reads, workshops and improv classes all over Zoom, because it was an adjustment we worked to adapt to it. And a big shoutout to The Casting Directors who have been amazing and so supportive!!! Also, Belinda Blight at Helen Pandos Management (Australia) and Sandy Oroumieh at Sandy Oroumieh Management (USA), my representation, have been amazing.

Occupation: Rainfall is in cinemas January 28, 2021

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